November 21, 2023

Somebody get me the president


My favorite genre of science fiction movies is the extraterrestrial takeover.

Especially at the end of the first act. The seismologist scrambles into the war room where top military leaders are debating whether to nuke the aliens back to hell.

Gentleman, these telepathic eight legged creatures we’ve discovered aren’t organic life forms that came to visit us from a distant planet. They have been here all along. The aliens have been digging upwards to the surface after being frozen for two thousand years. By this time next week, these creatures will unthaw, coordinate their attacks and execute their mission of total planetary domination. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Somebody get me the president.

Don’t you just love apocalyptic cinema?

I wish I had a twenty minute video compilation of every actor who ever chewed up the scenery with the overly dramatic line, get me the president.

But all theatrics aside, there’s a thematic sequence in these stories that has broader application beyond science fiction. Because in the creative process, ideas can feel like extraterrestrial life forms that have been hiding underground the whole time.

As such, being a person who makes things means training your mind to receive those difficult and unique things inside of you that want to be born.

Gauthier, a brilliant songwriter and performer, writes in her music memoir how some songs don’t feel like they come from anyone. They just feel like they have been here all along. The song feels inevitable, like it existed before any musician ever wrote it. It has this unimpeachable sense of rightness to it.

Mary’s observation is spot on. Not every creative work possesses such extraterrestrial spirit, but whenever it does, wow, do you absolutely feel it in your bones. Hell, I’ve written entire books like this. Where the content poured out of me like it was frozen underneath the surface, waiting for the perfect time to thaw.

It’s especially satisfying when this happens. There’s an authenticity, urgency and certainty about the work that feels euphoric. You don’t even care if anyone reads or hears or watches this thing you made. Bottom line, it was inside of you, and now it’s out.

Mission accomplished.

What’s inside of you that begs to be written? How do you treat those inevitable urges along your creative process?

Personally, when it comes to music, I believe that songs are selfish snapshots of the soul. When I write them, I make the music from me, not just presented by me. Songs are special in that way, because they allow me to express the thoughts I couldn’t express any other way. The music is some sort of an abstract interpretation of the way I’m seeing things.

It’s like an interpretive dance of what’s going on in my life right now, and I take it in and process it.

And it’s funny, because being selfish gets such a bad rap in our puritanical society. If a creative person were to hear the words, dude, your art so selfish, that would feel like an insult. A criticism of their character and label of being them immoral.

But my experience tells me it’s a virtue. Loving ourselves is not an indulgence. Hell, if we can’t be selfish with our art, when can we be selfish?

I don’t know about you, but I will not be ashamed of acting in a way that prioritizes my own needs. When I write music, the audience is an afterthought. They don’t even enter into my mind during the creative process.

Besides, I have no control over whether people like it or hate it. The songs say what my soul needs to say, and I’m proud of it, regardless of the quality. Even if I don’t like every song I write, I always like the fact that I wrote it. That’s enough for me.

Yes, make no mistake, this art is for me, and this art is about me. It’s me singing to myself what I need to hear. I start writing songs to figure my way out of feeling bad. I’m endeavoring to solve my own problems and, in the process, maybe help lift the weight of other people’s. It’s an expression of loyalty to my own life force. The act of making music as resistance, opposition to the pain, is what keeps me sane.

The eight legged creatures that have been buried beneath the surface have a job to do, and I’m going to support them. They hold the keys that opened doors I need to walk through to make sense of this chaotic, absurd sideshow called life.

It’s like my mentor used to day, as a writer, your job is to find out what it is that you’re thinking. Even if it’s something that you don’t want to be thinking.

It sounds crazy, but every day when I sit down at the blank page, all I’m trying to do is write my way to the scene in the science fiction film when the military advisor grabs the red phone and says, somebody get me the president.

If you’re a person who makes things, I suggest training your mind to receive those difficult and unique things inside of you that want to be born.

Imagine there’s a red phone on your desk, and your job is to find out where the aliens have been buried, so you can deadpan into camera two and say, somebody get me the president.

Just make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes.

I hear those eight legged creatures are really fast.

What’s inside of you that’s been here all along that begs to come up to the surface?